Microsoft’s Ballmer: Cloud Momentum Replaces Cloud Fears
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer today conceded that the company’s all-in cloud strategy initially was a bit scary. But partner fears have subsided as Microsoft’s cloud platforms have matured, Ballmer asserted today during his keynote at Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2011 (WPC11) in Los Angeles. Moreover, more than 500 channel partners are now part of the Microsoft Cloud Accelerate program, Channel Chief Jon Roskill confirmed to Talkin’ Cloud this evening.
Ballmer and Roskill addressed roughly 12,000 channel partners earlier today — covering everything from Microsoft’s cloud strategy to next moves in the SMB market.
Reflecting on the 2010 partner conference, Ballmer said the “all in” cloud bet initially triggered fear, uncertainly and doubt among some channel partners. But in the past 12 months, Windows Azure, System Center, Visual Studio, Active Directory and other Microsoft services have gained key on-premise and cloud capabilities to give customers more flexibility to mix and match between public and private clouds, Ballmer asserted.
Ballmer mentioned WireStone LLC as a partner that used Windows Azure, Windows Phone 7 and more to launch a business application for Boeing. Also, Microsoft continues to polish its Cloud Champions Club. The Cloud Champions Club is tiered and includes 280 partners that have engaged over 70,000 users of Microsoft Online Services, according to Greg Lissy, director of SMB channel strategy at Microsoft.
Meanwhile, Jenni Flinders, VP of US partner strategy and programs at Microsoft, is meeting with a range of MSPs and building deeper relationships with partners that understand recurring revenues but haven’t yet embraced Office 365, Talkin’ Cloud has heard. The VIP meetings include prime seating during Microsoft’s keynotes.
On the cloud compensation front, Microsoft will now pay cloud partners monthly rather than quarterly, Roskill confirmed to me this evening.
Attendance at WPC 2011 seems strong — there are 15,000 people here, roughly 12,000 of which are partners. But a healthy dose of cloud skepticism remains. Many partners are opting for third-party hosting providers because they don’t fully trust Microsoft’s billing and customer management strategies in the cloud.
Still, Roskill points to some clear successes in the cloud. Sometime this week, he notes, Microsoft will announce that 500 partners are now part of the Cloud Accelerate program. To join the program, partners must have at least three customers with a combined 500 users running various online services.